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Imagine beautiful, big white tents set against the backdrop of towering fir trees and the blues and greens of the ocean lapping at your doorstep, the sounds of silence, interrupted only by the occasional blow of passing whales or the songs of the birds as they wake with the sun, extraordinary kayaking at the edge of the Broughton Archipelago, and exclusive boat access to a private Swanson Island location. After nearly two years of work, Spirit of the West Adventures are happy to share this new glamping whale watching experience with you.
Spirit of the West Adventures' new and unique glamping camp on Swanson Island, in Blackfish Sound, offers the best amenities to make your stay as comfortable and memorable as possible. A true remote wilderness setting on a private island and in the heart of the magical coastal rain forest. The large kitchen, dining, and sitting area are the hub of the camp and are sheltered from rain and sun.
Spirit of the West will do their best to make sure you are comfortable and feel at home on your tour. Their established camp provides many amenities (hot tub, shower, tent platforms, running water, solar chargers, etc.), which make for the most comfortable camping you will have ever experienced.
Real beds with provided linens means a cozy night’s sleep. Generally, tenting is based on double occupancy, but if you are traveling on your own, they will do their best to provide you with your own tent (please make your request when reserving your tour) or pair you up with a suitable tent mate. Please note that tents are accessed by forest trails that may be uneven and by traversing some roots and rocks. Guests are generally responsible for carrying their own luggage to their tents, but please ask one of your guides if you require assistance.
Tents are large (10×12 feet / 3×3.6 meters), bright, and spacious cotton canvas tents made on Vancouver Island. They are eight feet (2.4 meters) high at the peak so there is ample room for standing up and moving around with ease.
The screened windows and front door provide sweeping views of the forest and / or ocean. The tents are perched off the ground on cedar platforms, helping to protect the delicate ecosystem below. Inside your tents are two twin beds which can be pushed together to make a king size, if desired. These beds are handmade by the wonderful crew with locally milled red cedar and beach driftwood accents.
The beds have a six-inch thick soya foam mattress each, two pillows (one soft and one firm to ensure a good night’s sleep), crisp white linens, a warm duvet, and fleece blankets for those cooler nights.
Bedside tables, crafted from local wood, hold a lamp for reading and a hot water bottle to help take the chill off when you crawl into your bed to dream about what’s in store for the morning. Of course, you can’t forget the wood-fired hot tub overlooking the ocean where you can soothe your body after a day on the water. Maybe you’d rather just have a hot shower and relax in one of the comfortable lounging chairs. Grab a book from the camp library, kick back, and listen for the sounds of passing whales!
This four-day tour is really the premier way to experience the best of what Canada’s west coast has to offer. Travel by boat to an exclusive camp, kayak each day to experience the coastal beauty up close, and get out there with a motorized whale watching tour to help ensure wildlife sightings. Each day, your hosts and guides will share their love and passion for the coast and kayaking with you.
After a hearty and healthy breakfast (and, of course, hot coffee and tea), you head off in your kayaks to explore the many nooks and crannies of the shoreline.
Keep your senses alert for the tell-tale blow of some of the area’s more famous residents, like orcas, humpback whales, minke whales, dolphins, and porpoise. On day three, you’ll be picked up at camp for a three-hour trip in a covered boat to look further afield for wildlife. Top off these perfect days in an idyllic setting with amazing food, laughter, good company, and a soak in the wood-fired hot tub overlooking the ocean.
Then head off to your spacious tent and comfortable bed for a good night’s rest. Of course, you can always roast a few treats over the glowing campfire before you head to bed, borrow a book from the extensive coastal library, play a board game with friends, or chat with your friendly, knowledgeable naturalist guides, too.
In addition to orcas, you are lucky to share the ecosystem with humpback whales, black bears (it is not uncommon to see black bears foraging along the shores for seafood during low tide), deer, cougars, shore and sea birds, minks, river otters, dolphins, and porpoise - to say nothing of the abundant, vibrant, and colorful intertidal life one can see below the surface. Witnessing these incredible creatures in their natural habitat is truly breathtaking.
The camp is situated in arguably one of the best areas for viewing whales on the coast. The humpback whales in all their glory are coming back to this area in truly impressive numbers after having been subject to intense hunting in years past. The population of humpback in the area now means that you are fortunate to view these gentle giants on almost every tour (Spirit of the West Adventures never like to guarantee wildlife, as it is just that wild, but chances are good).
More than just a kayaking trip, they offer the opportunity to go beyond the range of just your kayaks. On day three of your trip, a covered boat will pick you up at camp for a three-hour trip to go further out into Blackfish Sound and Johnstone Strait. Extend your viewing opportunities with this included bonus!
Your guides will go over the logistics of the tour and answer any questions or concerns you may have. This meeting will be held in the lounge at the Heriot Bay Inn, on Quadra Island, at 6:00 p.m. the day prior to departure. If you cannot make it to the meeting, just be sure to call in the day before departure to confirm your arrival. The Heriot Bay Inn has one of Quadra Island’s best restaurants so you may want to consider eating there after the meeting.
The whales, wilderness, and glamping tour departs from either Campbell River or Quadra Island (a 10-minute ferry ride from Campbell River). Spirit of the West Adventures is based on Quadra Island and they highly recommend making Quadra Island a part of your vacation plans. They are biased, of course, as they live there, but Quadra Island has a whole different and laid back feel to it, complete with endless opportunities for beach walks, hikes, biking, and visiting local artisans.
Rise and shine ready for fun and adventure. After meeting your water taxi and a safety briefing, your captain takes you up Discovery Passage and safely through the infamous Seymour Narrows, renowned for its treacherous tidal flows and whirlpools. En-route, sightings of marine life such as porpoises, dolphins, sea lions, and whales are common. After a two and a half hours journey, you arrive at your remote wilderness base camp on Blackfish Sound.
After settling into your new surroundings and having lunch, you will have a kayak orientation and discuss safety procedures before setting off on an afternoon paddle. You will return in time for a fresh wild and local fish dinner (there are alternatives, of course, for those who do not eat fish). Enjoy the sunset from the hot tub before retiring to rest for more fun in the morning.
After a hearty camp breakfast, you will meet to discuss your plans for each day. Your route and schedule will depend on weather conditions, wildlife viewing opportunities, and group preferences. Generally, you set out in your kayaks after breakfast and paddle to one of the area’s many pocket beaches for a picnic lunch before paddling to the camp again in time for some relaxation before dinner.
On your way, you’ll take breaks for stretching and snacks, and you, always take lots of time to explore the intricate shoreline. For the very brave there is always the option of a dip into the chilly waters of Blackfish Sound before a restorative soak in the hot tub.
This morning you’ll kayak the nearby waters and islands before returning in time for lunch. In the early afternoon, youy’ll be met by our covered vessel for a three-hour journey further into Blackfish Sound, Johnstone Strait, or Queen Charlotte Strait, giving you the opportunity to explore areas beyond the reach of your kayaks.
This is your last day of exploration. After a final morning paddle, you will pack up your things and soak up the last bit of tranquility before the water taxi arrives to transport you back to Quadra Island and the real world once again. You arrive back on Quadra Island and Campbell River by late afternoon, between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m., weather and wildlife dependent.
Your guides are extremely skilled (and certified by the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of British Columbia) in kayaking, back country travel, responsible environmental practices, and high levels of first aid and safety procedures, continually upgrading their training and striving to improve knowledge and skills.
Blackfish Sound (named for the distinctive black and white coloration of the killer whales that ply these waters) is the heart of orca and humpback territory on northern Vancouver Island and on the edge of the Broughton Archipelago. Sandwiched between the mainland mountains and Vancouver Island, tidal currents stir up the water column and create an environment rich with nutrients and oxygen.
Abundant marine life of all shapes and sizes make their home here, from the smallest crustacean to the largest whales. From the camp you have the opportunity to look out into the open waters of the Sound and paddle among the small islands and narrow passages, an ideal combination for the wildlife enthusiast.
During your stay, food and drinks from morning snack on day one to lunch on day four, except for alcohol, will be provided for you. One of the perks that come with the base camp is a well established kitchen for the fantastic guides to prepare your food. They use mostly organic fresh fruits and vegetables to prepare gourmet meals, topped off with home baking.
It is a Spirit of the West Adventures guarantee that you will never go hungry, even after a day’s paddle in the fresh air. On the first evening, they feature a wild and local fish dinner, and from here the creative, tasty, and hearty meals keep coming. This is not your typical camping food! Select British Columbia and Chile wines are served with dinner.
Spirit of the West Adventures encourage their guests to stay on Quadra Island before and after the trip, as Quadra Island is not to be missed. They work closely with two bed and breakfasts on the island, Quadra Island Harbour House and Chipperfield Hollow B&B. Both are located within easy walking distance of the pre-tour meeting location, the Heriot Bay Inn.
These guesthouses are also within walking distance of Rebecca Spit Provincial Park, stores, a restaurant, and pub. Staying here is the ideal way to meet fellow kayakers on your tour, prepare for your trip, and relax after your return. Hearty and healthy breakfasts are served. If you would like other suggestions for where to stay while on the island, from camping to resorts, they have a full list of recommended accommodations.
Mike and Robin host you at their home in a secluded forest setting perfect for a friendly bed and breakfast. This a great location, right in Heriot Bay, just a short walking distance to the Heriot Bay Inn, the store, and beaches.
This is a beautiful home above the ocean with the best island and mountain view around. It is close to the beach, park, and amenities. There is a hot tub on-site. Hearty breakfasts are served. It accommodates up to 10 persons and it is a great place to meet fellow kayakers.
Campbell River Airport
Transfer not provided
Please book your flight to arrive at Campbell River Airport (YBL). Transfers from and to this airport are not included. The airport is only a 15-minute ferry ride from Quadra Island, where you will meet for the pre-trip meeting the night before the tour starts. All guests need a rental car to attend the meeting. There is no public transportation on Quadra Island.
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